(FEBRUARY 26, 2014) – It’s Children’s Dental Health Month and experts are reminding parents of the importance of teaching children healthy habits early.
“Our mouth is the gateway to our body,” said Dr. John Clauss with Simply Dental in Fishers.
“There’s a lot of research showing gum disease has a link to heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, things like that, so it’s not just our mouth that’s affected it’s our overall health,” he said.
Children should start seeing a dentist regularly when they are two or three years old unless there are obvious problems.
Dr. Clauss said many parents think baby teeth don’t matter because children lose them anyway, but he said it’s still essential to take care of them.
“The baby teeth do a couple of different things. They save space for the permanent teeth and also they’re there to chew with, so if you don’t fix a tooth it might be quite a few years before the permanent tooth moves in and that could lead to the child being in some discomfort,” he said.
Brushing twice a day and flossing frequently are general rules of thumb. Brushing only removes about 65 percent of plaque and buildup on teeth, flossing can get to the rest of it, explained hygienist Holly Oden.
“You try to build life-long habits that start early, so if we can get the children to brush and learn to floss properly, that goes a long way toward their own oral health and the less amount of dental care they’ll need in a lifetime,” said Dr. Clauss.
Aside from brushing, diet plays a key role in oral health. The foods that pack the most powerful punch of damaging starch and sugar might surprise you.
Soda has always been a source of damaging sugar and staining syrup but sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are also harmful to teeth, especially if children drink them while they’re dehydrated when teeth will absorb more of the harmful sugars.
Food doesn’t have to taste be sweet to cause damage. Salty snacks like chips and pretzels and starchy foods like pasta can cause cavities, too.
“It’s carbohydrates, but they break down into pure sugar, basically. I think the most common is chips. They stick on your teeth they sit there for an extended period of time and that’s just a great sugar source for the cavity process to form,” said Dr. Clauss.
If you don’t want to completely cut those foods from your family’s diet, there are ways to minimize the effects. First, try to eat or drink the item in one sitting rather than sipping or snacking throughout the day. Try to brush after meals. If you can’t brush, rinsing with water or chewing sugar-free gum can help cleanse teeth. Healthy alternatives to processed sugars include natural sources like fruits and vegetables.